Whilst divorce rates amongst other age groups, the number of divorces amongst couples in their 50s and 60s is continuing to rise. The number of couples in their 60s who are divorcing has risen by over a third in the last ten years. Although some people put this rise down to recession-hit younger couples being unable to afford divorce, this theory has recently been disproved in a report by the Marriage Foundation (see our blog post of 1 July).
This rise in the number of older divorcees is worrying the relationship charity Relate; Relate have issued data which shows that the number of people born in the post-war years between 1946 and 1964, will be the first generation for whom living on their own will be the norm. Whilst living alone raises the issue of loneliness, it can also lead to financial and care problems.
The children of older divorcees have been christened ACODS (adult children of divorce) and despite being adults themselves, can still find coping with the end of their parent’s marriage a challenge. Studies have shown that children give less support to a divorced parent than a widowed one.
In a recent article on the Guardian website, divorcee and therapist Jackie Walker said: “Sadly too many many get stuck in their homes after divorce, especially wormen. Men can often trade in for a newer model but women ten to find that more difficult.
“The important thing is that I’m wholeheartedly sure that divorce is a good thing. Why would you stay with someone just beause you fear living alone? You both maybe can’t stand each other and haven’t for some time. It can lead to depression and anxiety when you are not connecting with someone.
“Divorce gets a bad press and marriage gets a hugely positive press, but frankly there’s nothing more miserable than being lonely in a marriage. It’s hideous, sharing a bed with someone you can’t stand.
“If all the people who were miserable could become less miserable, what a nicer world we’d have.
“We have to help people feel less isolated and the best way is for people to learn to have a strong and stable relationship with themselves. So we’ve got more diovrce and an amazing number of step families but it isn’t necessarily a bad thing, nor is it necessarily the family that is born to you that will look after you in later life. We need to find new ways to form communities.”
The approach of retirement can often be the catalyst for divorce. Jonathan West, the head of family and matrimonial law at Prolegal said: “People do try and hang on until the children have grown, then they think it’s time for us, time for me. Finances aren’t so stretched. It’s a lot easier to divorce when you’re older, without child support issues. A lot of clients will turn up with a grown-up child with them, as moral support.”
Just 14% of the couples seen by Relate are over 50 and 1% over the age of 70. Relate’s Chief Executive, Ruth Sutherland, said: “Retiring is a good time to think about your relationship: is it ready for the changes that later life can bring? People often don’t seek help until things are going badly wrong in their relationship and we’re encouraging people to invest early to get the most out of their old age.”
In an effort to help older couples, Relate has launched an online relationship checker to help. One of the key issues for older people, according to Relate, is the lack of support that often results from fractured families. Relate’s research has found that those who are married or living as a couple are more likely to be satisfied with life, compare to those who are single, windowed, divorced or separated.
Ruth Sutherland added: “What this report shows us is that there are three pillars to a good later life – health, financial security and good personal relationships, yet relationships are largely missing from the wider debate around our ageing society.
“We know from this report that good relationships have a direct impact on health and wellbeing, and that loneliness and isolation have negative impacts on both our health and wider society more generally.
“With one in five older people lacking the confidence to form new friendships and relationships, we are looking at a future in which 4 million people could be facing loneliness and isolation.”